Change the World: 2014 National Conference on Geography Education

August 18, 2014

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The National Council on Geographic Education’s (NCGE) annual meeting provides a forum for leaders in geography education to meet, exchange information, and share ideas that inform national, state and local programs and curricula. The organization turns 100 next year and will celebrate at its annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Each year the week-long event is highlighted by local field trips early in the week, with presentations and workshops throughout the weekend. Some extended workshops are available for Advanced Placement Human Geography teachers and Early Career Faculty and Graduate Students. Providing solid pedagogy and content for all levels of geography education is at the heart of this meeting.

This year’s conference, held at the historic Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN, kicked off on July 31 with a musical journey through the Mississippi Delta led by Frank and Eddie Thomas. The Mississippi brothers shared stories and music of the region, so vivid that attendees could almost smell the warm summer rains and the popcorn wafting from the theater.

Two keynotes punctuated the conference: Brian Unger, host of the History Channel’s "How the States Got Their Shapes" and Daniel Raven-Ellison, guerrilla geographer, author and National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

The message was clear throughout the event: geography matters. Unger provided a humorous look behind the scenes of his life and at how historic content becomes television. He also shared a sneak peek at his latest project. Raven-Ellison’s enthusiasm was contagious. He encouraged listeners to get beyond their computers and books to live geography. His work with Mission: Explore had the audience ready to join #teamgeography and change the world!

Colleagues buzzing with ideas and creativity are the norm at this event. Elementary teachers’ workshops gave educators a chance to become students for 45 minutes, making books with glue and tape, dancing around the coordinates or mapping the news on large pin boards with bungee cords. If you’re looking for creative ways to teach or integrate geography, this event is the place to be. For those interested in technology, the Esri Education Team hosted a computer lab and a full slate of how-to sessions to get folks mapping fast.

A high point of the event was learning about initiatives and research projects happening around the country. Among the highlights:  Pat Thomas from Armstrong State and his colleagues are conducting research on special needs students and wayfinding; David Padgett from Tennessee State has students using map concepts as a vehicle for service learning projects; Bob Rohli from Louisiana State University and his colleagues have redesigned their physical geography text book based on intensive brain research; Jan Smith at Shippensburg University and Lisa Keys-Mathews at the University of North Alabama are experimenting with flipping their world geography and cartography classes.  There was no shortage of creativity and innovation on display at all levels of geography instruction!


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